Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a criminal offense in California with severe consequences. In California, this is a priorable offense meaning the more a person repeats the offense, the steeper the penalties become. A person arrested for drunk driving can get a conviction that can result in their driver’s license being suspended. This can be an inconvenience without mentioning the other penalties a guilty verdict will bring. Even though first-time offender penalties are more lenient as compared to subsequent offenses, the penalties are still steep. Therefore, you need an experienced DUI lawyer to help fight against these charges. At the Orange County DUI Attorney, we are skilled and able to offer you legal advice and representation on these charges. You can get in touch with our Villa Park DUI attorney for help.
Overview of DUI Offenses
A DUI offense can be as a result of a person driving intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. The law has given the legal requirement for alcohol content in a person’s blood. An excess of this quantity can result in impairment and a DUI arrest. Impairment due to prescription drugs is also an offense because the driver is a danger to other road users and pedestrians alike.
When an individual is arrested for intoxicated driving, two kinds of proceedings are triggered. These are:
- A criminal prosecution to establish if the driver committed a DUI offense or crime
- A hearing by the Department of Motor Vehicles. This is an optional administrative hearing that determines whether to suspend the defendant’s driver’s license or not. The hearing is optional because the defendant has to request it.
The court of law can impose many penalties on a defendant found guilty of the offense. The Department of Motor Vehicles, on the other hand, however, can only decide on the suspension of the license. The decision made by the DMV is independent of that by the courts. It, however, does not impact the criminal proceedings against the defendant. However, the penalty of suspending a license can run together with the court’s decision to suspend the defendant’s license as well.
It is not straight forward for a defendant to get a DMV administrative hearing; neither is it legally required for one to get it. Defendants under the law have a right to challenge the standard suspension of their license once charged with a DUI offense. To do this, they must request a hearing within ten days from the day they were arrested. If the time lapses without securing a hearing, the driver will receive an automatic suspension of their license for six months if a first time offender.
The court can also suspend a defendant’s license. Criminal proceedings in court are independent of DMV hearings as earlier indicated. A judge hearing the DUI offense in court can decide to penalize the defendant with a suspension on their license. The law, however, allows for the suspension sentences to overlap each other. This means that between the court's suspension, and the DMV's, the defendant must serve the longer one.
Driving is a privilege that should not be taken lightly. To protect yourself from losing this privilege, you must:
- Request for a hearing at the Department of motor vehicles and convince them not to suspend your license and
- Avoid being found guilty, pleading guilty, or entering a plea of no contest when faced with a DUI offense in court.
Although a DMV hearing is optional, a criminal hearing against you on DUI charges is an option. The prosecutor, based on the evidence he or she has, can decide on how to charge you. You are therefore required to appear in court and fight against these charges. Hiring a Villa Park DUI attorney is an excellent idea if you hope to beat these charges.
Once charged, you and your attorney will be required to attend court proceedings without fail. An arraignment is also a must to attend, and you are required to plead guilty, or not guilty, or a no-contest plea.
Differences Between DMV Hearings and Court Hearings
The DMV, as earlier stated, can only suspend the driver’s license of the defendant as a penalty. However, the court can institute various penalties as guided by the law besides license suspension. Whether you win or lose a DMV administrative hearing, it does not have an impact on your court case. However, the conclusion of the court case can have an impact on the DMV ruling.
If a defendant is acquitted of the charges or found innocent of the offenses, the DMV must reverse its license suspension. This is only done once the DMV officer establishes that the decision by the court was a total acquittal. A win due to a technicality cannot reverse the suspension.
Penalties for a First Time DUI Conviction in California
Although a first-time offender faces more lenient sentences as compared to the others, the penalties are none the less severe. A defendant found guilty of this offense is likely to face one or several of these penalties:
- Be sentenced to summary probation lasting between three and five years. Most judges for a first time offender prefer sentencing them to three years.
- A defendant may be ordered to attend a DUI school for three to nine months, with most first time offenders being sentenced to a three-month program.
- A defendant may be charged with paying a fine and other assessment costs amounting to between $1,500 and $2,000.
- The defendant may get their driver’s license suspended for six months. However, a first-time offender is allowed to apply for a restricted driver’s license that allows them to drive to specific places. An Ignition Interlock Device restricted driver’s license is also an option if a defendant wants to be free to drive anywhere.
- The defendant may face a likely county jail time of six months or less
- A defendant may be given a mandatory order to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle.
Sometimes with your lawyer, you may request to enter a plea bargain. This means that you agree to plead guilty for lesser charges, such as reckless driving. If your lawyer succeeds in getting the prosecutor to agree to this, the court will not suspend your license.
Probation as Opposed to Jail Time
Based on the circumstances of the offense, the judge may decide to sentence the defendant to summary probation if found guilty of drugged or drunk driving. A probation penalty will mean the accused will spend no jail time. However, there are conditions for serving probation as a punishment and are mandatory for the defendant to fulfill them.
Even when a defendant gets probation, there are various conditions to the probation that the court orders. These are:
- The Defendant must never drive with alcohol in their system that is in measurable quantities
- If the defendant faces a subsequent DUI arrest, he or she must submit to a chemical test administered
- The defendant must agree to install an ignition interlock device in their car for at least six months
- The defendant should not be arrested or be faced with other offenses
Other conditions are optional based on the facts of the offense. Some of these DUI probation conditions include:
- The defendant is ordered to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or in case of drugs the Narcotics Anonymous
- The defendant may be ordered to participate in a victim impact program known as the Mothers Against Drunk Driving
- In case a person was injured or property destroyed by the defendant as a result of their drunk driving, they will be ordered to pay restitution to the victim.
Violation of DUI Probation Terms
Violating the conditions of their probation risks having the probation revoked. This will mean the court can reinstate the previous sentence that was vacated in favor of probation. The defendant is then likely to face jail time once their probation is revoked.
What Would Happen to Your Driver’s License as a First Offender
When a person gets arrested on a DUI charge, the arresting officer takes the driving license of the arrestee. He then issues the suspect with a pick license to use temporarily, and it is valid for only thirty days. The suspect’s original license is forwarded to the Department of Motor Vehicles in California.
Once the DMV receives your license, it will issue an administrative suspension on it. A suspension is issued because a person has violated the requirements and terms of holding a license by driving intoxicated. The defendant from the date of arrest has a ten-day window to request a DMV hearing to contest the suspension of their license. When the DMV receives this request, it puts a temporary stay on the suspension until the hearing, and then make its final decision. If the DMV does not get a hearing request, the suspension stays in place.
Even with the suspension, the license holder can apply to have a restricted driver’s license to enable him or her drive to certain places such as school, work, or hospital. The defendant, if he or she agrees to install an IID in their vehicle, can get a restricted license that allows them to drive to any place.
Winning a DMV hearing is, however, not easy, but it can be done. With the help of your Villa Park DUI attorney, you can formulate a compelling defense and avoid a suspension of your license.
What the DMV Takes into Consideration
During the hearing with the DMV, regardless of your defense, they will be concerned with checking the following factors:
- Did the driver submit and complete a DUI chemical test?
- Was there a reasonable cause for the arresting officer to suspect the motorist of intoxication?
- Was the driver’s BAC level beyond the lawful limit at the time of the arrest
- Was the defendant arrested lawfully
- Did the officer inform the defendant that a refusal to submit to a chemical test would see their driving privileges suspended for a year or revoked for between two and three years?
- After the information, did the motorist fail to complete or submit to a chemical or urine test when asked?
Getting Your License Restored
A suspension does not mean you will never drive again. Once the period of suspension is completed, the license holder is required to file an SR22 form. The DMV issues this form. Once filled, it is returned to them with a reinstatement cost of $125.
The driver will be needed to keep the SR22 for at least three years after having their license reinstated.
Getting a Restricted Driver’s License following Your DUI Conviction
Most people that have been convicted of a first time DUI offense are able to apply to get a restricted driving license as long as it is non-commercial. There are, however, incidents that will make it impossible to get a restricted license. These are:
- When in the sentencing the judge prohibits it although this is rare
- When the license was put on suspension, the driver refused to submit to or failed to complete taking chemical tests to determine the alcohol level in his or her system.
If, however, none of these are valid, a driver can then apply for either an Ignition Interlock Device restricted license or a standard restricted driver’s license. The DMV has set rules to be followed in the application and obtaining any of these licenses.
Restricted IID License
When your license has been suspended, a first time DUI offender can apply to get an IID restricted license. This type of license permits the accused to drive to any place provided their vehicle is installed with an IID. This is a breathalyzer device that prevents the vehicle from starting when it detects alcohol.
An IID restricted driver’s license can be requested as soon as their regular license is suspended. If your license has been suspended after the arrest, you can use an IID license to drive around for not more than four months. However, if you are convicted of the offense of drunk driving, you will use the license for six months. If your BAC at the time of arrest was 0.2% or more, you would be required to use the IID license for ten months.
In applying for an IID license, there are various requirements by which one must fulfill, according to the DMV. These are:
- Filling an SR22 form
- Evidence that you have joined a DUI school program
- Proof of payment of $125 fee for reissue or if below the age of 21, a $100 fee
Once your license has been put on suspension, you need to wait for thirty days before applying for a restricted driver’s license. With a restricted license, the hold can only:
- Drive to attend a DUI program and back
- Drive to work and back
- Drive themselves to a hospital or a family member only when the issue is serious
- Transport children to school if there is no school bus available
Individuals that do not want to install an IID and have their license suspended are the ones that apply for a restricted driver’s license.
Your Criminal Record after a DUI Conviction
Individuals convicted of a DUI offense will have the conviction reflecting in their permanent record. However, one can apply for expungement once they complete the sentencing given to them.
As a first offender, you can file for expungement by asking your lawyer to help you. Filling of an expungement petition is filed in the court where the judge reviews the petition and confirms eligibility. Should the judge grant the expungement, the accused will withdraw their guilty plea or no contest plea. A not guilty plea is then entered, and the record is dismissed or expunged. This means the record is not available to the public.
Benefits of Getting a DUI Expungement
Most people get their records expunged to get jobs without their records being used against them. Although the law prohibits potential employers from asking prospective employees about their criminal records, it does not mean they will not check on it since it is a public record.
A potential employer, however, should only ask about the prospective employee’s record after offering them a conditional offer letter. At that point, one can disclose their record. However, when the record is expunged, you do not have to disclose your past record.
Even after your current employer or potential employer learns of your expunged record, they are not allowed to discriminate against you because of it.
There are other benefits to having your records expunged aside from stopping discrimination at your workplace. These are:
- With an expungement, it becomes easier to get a professional license
- Your past conviction cannot be used to challenge your credibility in case you are testifying in court
- If you are a non-citizen, you can avoid immigration repercussions like deportation when it applies
Aggravating Penalty Enhancing Factors in DUI
Even with a first DUI offense, certain factors can exacerbate the offense increasing the penalties one may be sentenced to. Some of the common ones include:
- The defendant’s BAC is 0.15% or more
- Refusing to take chemical tests
- Being responsible for an accident
- Driving beyond the speed limit
- Driving with a child below 14 years while intoxicated
- Being below 21 years when arrested for the offense.
Find a Villa Park DUI Attorney Near Me
A DUI conviction is a serious offense with severe penalties. Apart from the usual penalties, it affects your criminal record, and a subsequent arrest on a DUI is made worse by the previous conviction. It is, therefore, essential to fight against these accusations to get your life back to normal. If arrested on DUI charges, you need to get in touch with a DUI attorney to help with your defense. At the Orange County DUI Attorney, we are skilled and passionate in defending our clients against DUI allegations. Call our Villa Park DUI attorney today at 949-377-2280, and let us assist you with your defense.